Fifa World Cup disaster for Lionel Messi: Argentina media and fans lay the boot in after Croatia ‘catastrophe’

Argentina staring at first-round exit in Russia after shock 3-0 defeat by Croatia as critics round on team’s superstar

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 11:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 11:59am

Argentina’s media stuck the boot into Lionel Messi and his teammates on Thursday, calling the team’s World Cup defeat to Croatia a “catastrophe” and a “humiliation”.

Argentina face the prospect of an embarrassing first-round exit in Russia after suffering a 3-0 loss to the Croatians in Nizhny Novgorod, which left them with one point from two games.

For Argentina’s press, the result was too much to bear.

“Catastrophe against Croatia, Argentina disappoints and is on the way out of the World Cup”, the Clarin newspaper wrote on its website.

“Argentina were ridiculed by Croatia and has jeopardised its future in the competition”, La Nacion said.

Television commentator Diego Latorre, of the TV Publica network, reflected on the lacklustre contribution of Messi.

“Messi was at a standstill, he was off the pace, depressed,” Latorre said.

The Infobae website described the loss as a “humiliation”.

Infobae took aim at the blunder by goalkeeper Willy Caballero that handed Croatia their opening goal early in the second half, describing the howler as “incredible”.

Former Argentina defender Oscar Ruggeri, a member of the 1986 World Cup-winning team, noted that Caballero had been selected “because he was meant to be good with his feet”.

Argentina’s loss means the team will have to beat Nigeria in their final game and hope other results go their way to advance.

The party at the Buenos Aires fan zone also fell flat as a crowd expecting a Messi-inspired Argentina revival could only watch in horror as the nadir of Nizhny Novgorod unfolded.

“We lost very badly, they really humiliated us this time,” said 22-year-old Joaquin. “And now, on top of that, we’re depending on Nigeria!”

After the abject loss to Croatia, the team will have to beat Nigeria in their final game and hope other results go their way to advance.

For even the most passionate fans here, that seems a tall order now.

Messi came in for particular criticism after an under-par performance.

“Messi, who keeps winning for Barcelona, who continues to deliver triumph after triumph for Barcelona, has given us nothing but defeats and sadness,” said an angry Miguel Angel Gutierrez, 50, wearing an “Albiceleste” wig.

Lionel Messi’s Argentina staring at World Cup exit after Croatia humbling in Novgorod nightmare

But this was no party in Buenos Aires as fans young and old hid their sky blue-and-white painted faces in their hands, the classic reflexes of cinema-goers at a horror film.

Some wept and others hugged each other like survivors at a disaster scene. One man stood and gestured angrily at the big screen as passes went astray on the pitch in Russia.

The World Cup was supposed to provide a glitzy distraction for Argentines who have seen their purchasing power steadily eroded by subsidy cuts, IMF-inspired reforms, and a crippled national currency.

“We are very sad because it’s all wrong! Just look at the dollar, we are very tired of everything. We trusted in this team,” a despondent Alfredo Dominguez, 48, said from under his blue-and-white-striped hat, which said “Messi 10”.

Zulma Suarez smiled sadly and sighed as she reflected on the shattered hopes of a nation that has already suffered through a 1-1 draw with Iceland in its first game.

“I thought we would get there, that it would get easier as we went along. But well, as an Argentine, I feel my country in my heart.”